Monday, July 1, 2024

Sifoddling Along


By Marilyn Carnell

Cruising Along

July is in the middle of summer and therefore in the middle of vacation season. I am not going on a vacation this summer, but remember some interesting times long ago. Cruises are very popular. I have been on two, and they fall into the category of “been there, done that” and I have no need to go on another one.

During my first cruise, we visited several ports in the Caribbean. It was a nightmare.

One night, we sailed through a hurricane that caused a lot of damage and I had an epic case of seasickness. I resolved to stay within sight of land on any future boat trips. Later (1989), my husband and I took a cruise on the Delta Queen along the Mississippi River. Although the river was more than a mile wide in New Orleans, the land was visible at all times, so I was willing to go aboard.

We flew from Philadelphia to New Orleans where a representative of the steamboat line met us to take us to the terminal. The check-in procedures went smoothly, better than the larger cruise line we have been on. Since both the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen were leaving that afternoon, there were about 500 people to process. Staff members of the steamboat line dressed in 19 th century costumes were circulating and serving a nice array of complimentary snacks to make waiting more tolerable.

A young woman also passed out Mardi Gras beads, and we later found we would board according to the color of the necklaces we wore. Eventually, we arrived at our cabin. It was the only disappointment of the trip. To say it was small would be an understatement. One of us had to leave the cabin if the other wanted to change clothes. Nevertheless, because everything else was wonderful, we learned to love our tiny cabin.

The cabin came well equipped. In addition to a comfortable bed and a private bathroom, there was also a fly swatter (which is needed in the Mississippi Delta) and a helpful sign over the sink “Do Not Drink the Water”. The sign was apt as the water was muddy brown and heavily chlorinated, right out of the Mississippi River.

Fresh water and ice were brought to the cabin morning and evening, so we didn’t mind.

Our cruise was a brief three-day trip from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. We traveled at night and went on land tours each day. At Baton Rouge we visited the state capital and saw where Huey Long, the Louisiana Senator and former Governor was assassinated in 1935.

We also made stops at a Cajun village for entertainment and snacks and at Nottoway Plantation - the largest plantation home in the south — three stories high and 64 rooms. Nottoway was completed in 1859 after 10 years of construction. Built by John Hampden Randolph as the focus of his 7,000 acre sugar plantation — a lot of space was needed to accommodate his eleven children. It was saved from destruction during the Civil War by a Yankee officer who had earlier been a guest at Nottoway.

The Delta Queen is the last of the truly authentic riverboats — she is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She carries only 176 passengers and cruisers are made to feel like a guest of honor in a fine old home. It was originally built in California in the 1920s to provide service on the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Sacramento. They brought it through the Panama Canal to a new life on the Mississippi.

At one time there were more than 1100 paddle wheelers traveling the Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The Delta Queen is the only remaining original riverboat. It was temporarily out of service, but after extensive (and expensive) remodeling is permitted to serve until 2028.

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